CDE Issues Guidance on Possible Student Walkouts

March 9, 2018

(Editor’s note: On March 2, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson issued the following guidance regarding possible student walkouts in response to recent school shooting incidents.)

School shootings are devastating for victims, survivors, and communities and increase fear for students, parents, and educators throughout the nation. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on February 14, 2018, as well as all victims of school shootings.

Some students may wish to show solidarity with the Florida victims by planning and taking part in walkouts on March 14, 2018. I applaud these students’ empathy and civic engagement and support the right of all students to exercise their First Amendment rights...

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“Teacher Stress is at an All-Time High... Stress Interferes with Quality Instruction in Several Ways”

March 9, 2018

(Editor’s note: Gun control, mental health, violence prevention, and the Second Amendment surged to the front lines of passionate national debate about what can or should happen in response to the Florida school massacre that left 17 dead. Patricia Jennings is an associate professor with the University of Virginia (UVA)’s Curry School of Education. She is an expert with extensive research on the effects of stress on teachers. In the following interview, Jennings answers questions from UVA Today writer Jane Kelly regarding teachers, stress at school and arming educators.)

Q. What does your research reveal about the level of stress in the teaching profession? 

A. Teacher stress is at an all-time high. Nearly 50 percent of teachers report high daily stress during the school year. This stress is caused by dwindling school budgets that impact their resources and salaries, growing numbers of students coming to school with challenging educational and behavioral problems, demanding parents and unsupportive administrations. On top of this, measures that apply untested and questionable accountability measures and reduce teacher autonomy and instructional creativity have resulted in dramatic reductions in job satisfaction and an increase in teacher burnout and turnover...

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PPIC: School Districts Face Challenges Implementing New K-12 Science Standards

March 9, 2018

Successful implementation of the state’s new K-12 science standards will likely call for revised high school graduation requirements and a stronger science focus in the early grades, according to a new report released on March 7 by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

The report identifies major challenges districts have encountered since the introduction of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2013. It draws on a survey of unified and high school districts conducted at the end of the 2016-17 school year. It offers recommendations on how state and local policymakers can help districts implement California’s stronger science standards...

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CDE Announces New Social Emotional Learning Guidelines

February 24, 2018

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced on February 20 that the California Department of Education (CDE) has released new guiding principles for teaching social and emotional skills, a tool to help educators ensure students have the skills they need for success in school, careers, and in the community.

“Educators know, and the science confirms that learning is not only cognitive, but also social and emotional,” said Torlakson. “These principles are a part of a concentrated effort to improve teaching and learning of social and emotional skills by recognizing that students’ connection to what they are learning is a critical component of a quality education.”

The planning team, consisting of 35 educators throughout California, was created in the fall of 2016 as part of the Collaborating States Initiative, a multi-state learning community convened by the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning...

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U.S. Dept. of Education Launches New English Learner Website

February 10, 2018

On January 29, the U.S. Department of Education launched a new interactive web page dedicated to data on English Learner students (ELs). The site uses colorful maps, bar graphs and charts to provide a clearer understanding of America's diverse ELs population in a “data story” format based on data from the Common Core of Data (CCD).The data story shows nearly every state has at least one school district where the EL population has increased by more than 50% since the 2010 school year and answers three main questions - Who are ELs? Where are ELs? And what languages do ELs speak?

The Data Story Includes...

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New Report Concludes Rural Student Population Left “Out of the Loop” By Schools

January 29, 2018

Nearly 20 percent of the country’s students are enrolled in rural schools, yet are not provided the same focus in national policy or research as students in urban and suburban school districts. “Out of the Loop,” a new report from the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA), Center for Public Education (CPE), finds that poverty, isolation and inequities are exacerbated for rural students by the lack of attention to the unique needs of this considerable student population.

While not equally distributed across the country, CPE’s analysis notes, approximately one-half of school districts, one-third of schools, and one-fifth of all students in the United States are in rural areas. Inadequate funding, lower literacy rates, and less access to advanced courses such as AP and STEM classes impact rural students’ achievement, creating significant barriers to their success...

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Friends’ Genes May Help Friends Stay in School, New Stanford Research Study Finds

By Brooke Donald - Rep: January 29, 2018

A new study by Assistant Professor Ben Domingue of the Stanford Graduate School of Education finds that the DNA of your peers may influence your own educational attainment.

While there’s scientific evidence to suggest that your genes have something to do with how far you’ll go in school, new research by a team from Stanford and elsewhere says the DNA of your classmates also plays a role.

“We examined whether the genes of your peer groups influenced your height, weight or educational attainment. We didn’t find a correlation to height or weight, but did find a small one with how far you go in school,” says Ben Domingue, assistant professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education and first author of the new paper, published online Jan. 9 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences...

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Thoughtful Classroom Assignment Can Enhance Outcomes

New Research Shows Teachers’ Physical Proximity Boosts Collaboration with Colleagues

By Laura Jimenez - Rep: January 15, 2018

Innovative new schools across the country are experimenting with building designs to increase student learning and teacher collaboration. But the majority of instructors in the United States teach in a more traditional setting – the “egg crate” design, consisting of long hallways lined with self-contained classrooms. In a new article for Education Next, James Spillane of Northwestern University and Matthew Shirrell of George Washington University report that even within the limitations of traditional school building design, thoughtful classroom assignments can promote beneficial teacher interactions. Teachers are far more likely to speak with one another about their practice when they are assigned to nearby classrooms.

In each year from 2010 through 2013, Spillane and Shirrell surveyed all instructional staff from 14 elementary schools comprising one Midwestern suburban school district about their work-related interactions, school perceptions, and background information...

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Researcher Recommends Ways to Improve Remedial Education

By Laura Jimenez - Rep: January 15, 2018

In December, during a hearing before California lawmakers on the need to reform remedial education – the system that aims to ready underprepared students for college-level work – a student testified that because his test scores required him to take one year’s worth of remedial education, he would have to scramble to figure out how to pay another year’s rent, school fees, and transportation. While he completed his remedial coursework and went on to college-level work, he wanted a better system for his younger brother.

Remedial education held real promise at its origin. It served as an on-ramp to college for students who were underprepared in the subjects of reading, writing, and mathematics. In the present day, however, remedial education often acts as an exit ramp, derailing many students in need of additional academic support from ever enrolling in college courses or completing their undergraduate degree...

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California School Dashboard Launches, Offering Multiple Measures to Check School and District Performance

December 18, 2017

On December 7, the California Department of Education (CDE) and the State Board of Education (SBE) announced the launch of the fall 2017 California School Dashboard, a web site that provides valuable information on multiple topics regarding school and student performance in an easy-to-understand report card format.

The information, which includes test scores, graduation rates, and college and career readiness, is aimed at helping all students succeed. The launch follows a pilot version released in March.

The release of the Dashboard occurs at the same time California launches its new Statewide System of Support for Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) and schools, which provides assistance for all districts, but has special targeted support for districts that face significant challenges in lifting the performance of struggling student groups...

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Students’ Early Test Scores Don’t Predict Academic Growth Over Time, Study Finds

By Carrie Spector - Rep: December 18, 2017

A new analysis of data from all public school districts in the United States indicates that poverty does not determine the effectiveness of a school.

For years, parents and policymakers have looked to test scores to gauge the effectiveness of school districts and teachers. New research from Stanford Graduate School of Education by Professor Sean Reardon provides a different measure: students’ academic progress over a period of years.

Reardon examined test scores for students in third through eighth grade at 11,000 school districts across the country. Third-grade test scores, he found – whether they were higher or lower than the national average – did not correlate to students’ academic growth through elementary and middle school. In fact, growth rates in many low-income districts outpaced those where students enjoyed greater access to learning opportunities in early childhood...

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Heated Political Rhetoric Spills Over into Classroom, Increasing Stress and Undermining Learning

By John McDonald - Rep: December 4, 2017

Amid the first months of a Trump administration characterized by highly charged and divisive political rhetoric, a new national survey of public high school teachers finds heightened levels of student stress and anxiety and concerns for their own well-being or that of their family members, according to a new study published by the UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education and Access. Teachers in the survey also report a rise in polarization and incivility in classrooms, as well as an increased reliance by students on unreliable and unsubstantiated information. Teachers also report hostile environments for racial and religious minorities and other vulnerable groups.

“Hate speech and acts of intimidation are not new to U.S. schools, but it’s disconcerting that numerous teachers are telling us that the level of animus they are seeing is ‘unprecedented’ in their careers,” says John Rogers, a professor of education at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and the lead researcher for the study...

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High-Stakes Exams Can Put Female Students at a Disadvantage, Researcher Finds

By Carrie Spector - Rep: December 4, 2017

A new study suggests that women are more heavily influenced than men by test anxiety, and points to ways to help close the gender gap.

Research has long shown that women who enter college intending to pursue a career in science abandon that path more frequently than their male peers, with many citing poor grades and large gateway classes as reasons for their declining interest. To what extent do these women fall behind because of the way science is taught and tested?

A new study of students in introductory biology courses finds that women overall performed worse than men on high-stakes exams but better on other types of assessments, such as lab work and written assignments. The study also shows that the anxiety of taking an exam has a more significant impact on women’s grades than it does for men...

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SBE Approves Inclusive History/Social Science Textbooks

December 4, 2017

The State Board of Education voted during its meeting on November 8-9 to approve instructional materials for grades K-8 that teach California’s groundbreaking History/Social-Science Curriculum Framework.

“I am proud California continues to lead the nation by teaching history-social science that is inclusive and recognizes the diversity of our great state and nation,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. “Students will benefit enormously.”

The instructional materials are intended to give students a broader, deeper, and more accurate understanding of history and the social sciences, provide them with current research, and equip them with the critical thinking and research skills to make up their own minds about controversial issues...

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